Where to Stay - South Africa

Trip to Shamwari for the weekend, Eastern Cape

Shamwari – a dream destination! Can it possibly live up to a dream? Well, the answer is an without doubt YES.

Weekend trip to Shamwari Game Reserve

Game Reserves Eastern Cape

Shamwari – a dream destination!    Can it possibly live up to a dream?    Well, the answer is an without doubt YES. Last weekend we decided to take advantage of living so close to Shamwari and have a long weekend of luxury. We left East London about 10 a.m. and drove on the N2 via King Williams Town and Grahamstown to Shamwari Game Reserve – arriving just on 1 p.m. which was the check in time suggested in the correspondence we had received.From the time you enter the Shamwari area you can see that attention to detail is very important – the entrance area is beautifully mowed with gardens of indigenous plants and flowers.   The guard on duty welcomes you and advises how to get to your lodge. We stayed at Long Lee Manor – a beautiful old colonial farm house which has been modernised but still retains a feel of the original home.   We were greeted by the manager with homemade lemonade and signed the indemnity forms – a must for any private reserve.  

We were then advised that we would have lunch and after lunch we would be shown to our rooms.   Afternoon High Tea is served at 3.30 p.m. and that is where you meet your ranger.    A ranger is assigned to you for the whole of your stay and during this time eats breakfast and dinner with you.    We were then taken out to the garden where lunch was been served – this is really beautiful as you look over the plain and can watch the animals in the distance and all the birds in the many trees that surround the Manor. 

The lunch time menu consists of 3 different starters, about 3 or 4 choices of main course and a couple of desserts plus fresh fruit and a cheese platter.    Each course is beautifully presented – looks like something you would see in one of the magazines.The service is amazing – as you put your glass down you are asked if you would like something else to drink – the local drinks are included in the price, and from what I could gather it is only the more exotic imported drinks that you may be charged for.

After lunch we were shown to our rooms – or perhaps I should say suites.  As you walked into our room there was a sitting area, which included a TV, bar fridge, kettle and all the things you might need for tea or coffee.    You walked through to the large bedroom and off the bedroom was the large bathroom with a bath and separate walk in shower.  There was also a private patio off the bedroom.

At 3.30 p.m. we walked down to the bar area where High Tea is served and met Phillip our ranger who welcomed us and told us that we would be joined along our drive by 2 Canadian ladies.  I enjoy the vehicles at Shamwari – they only seat 2 people in a row with a box between them.   The box contains warm blankets and you can put all your stuff in them – very handy. We set off on our drive and immediately were thankful for the warm jackets, gloves and Beanies we had brought as the wind was really cold.   We also realized that this is why they provide lovely blankets for your legs.The first thing we saw were those wonderfully graceful giraffes.   The great thing about Phillip was that he kept pointing out different birds to us. We came across a mother warthog and her 2 children – they were so relaxed, had found a sheltered spot in the sun and really – was she going to be bothered to run off for another group of tourists? We then came across a herd of elephants – lots of youngsters and babies and they were not at all bothered by us – in fact it is amazing how close they come to you. You can see that this is spring time – the veld is looking fantastic and there are just so many babies all over.    We saw herds of Springboks, Impala, Blesbok and Red Hartebees with one area looking like a nursery with so many babies.

We met up with our 2 Canadian ladies who would be with us until Sunday. Just after we met up with them we came across a lone bull elephant in “musc”, in other words on heat.   This meeting ended up a little bit close for comfort, but it was interesting to hear that the male elephants go on must, evidently can be dangerous if 2 are in the same vicinity.    Well, looking at the one poor tree, I can believe that. We drove around and then came to another plain – we could see we were going after something, but did not know what and then there they were – two youngish male Cheetah brothers. Evidently this is unusual but not unheard of, where two Cheetah brothers live and hunt together. They are really beautiful animals and also very graceful the way they walk is something to behold.   We followed them for a while and then went back towards Long Lee Manor as it was beginning to drizzle, getting very cold and also it was nearly 7 p.m.

That evening was the African Experience dinner – in other words a braai, but not your normal everyday braai.   In good weather this would be set up around a fire, but when the weather is bad it is in an old converted barn.    The array of food was spectacular with a lot of the traditional South African dishes and lots of game meat on the menu, but luckily for some of us also steak, lamb chops and chicken.

Who likes to be woken up at 5.30 a.m. – well guess what when you are going on a game drive you don’t even mutter, just get dressed, grab a coffee and perhaps a rusk and you are ready to face the day. This was a special drive, we seem to set off just watching the buck, giraffes and zebras, did not seem in any particular hurry but heading north.   We stopped at one of the other Lodges, Eagles Crag, to use the toilets and were lucky to see a troop of baboons, with the Alpha male showing whose territory this was.   Eagles Crag is very different to Long Lee Manor – each room is entirely private and you do not see any accommodation when you drive in.   The reception area is very modern and very beautiful, fits in with the mountain crags that surround it.    This is the lodge where the film stars stay when they visit Shamwari, as it is very small and private. We were still heading north – having no idea why we seemed to be just travelling without seeing that amount of game, when we saw another game vehicle in the distance and realized that this must be why we had come all this way.

Oh Yes!    This was an experience – two lions mating and we got so close to them you almost felt you would like to have gone and tickled their stomachs as they lay exhausted in the grass.    Evidently they mate for something like 48 hours and this is a continuous thing – every 10 minutes or so, guess that is why they look so tired. Shamwari had 2 male lions and a couple of months ago the one male attacked and killed the other one, so this was the victor who was taking over the old lions ladies and showing who they now belonged to.    Evidently she had cubs, but the female lion will go on heat with the male as he forgets that they have mated before and will kill the cubs if he thinks they don’t belong to him.

We then drove back to Long Lee for breakfast/brunch and a rest before our next drive. Breakfast/brunch is half buffet and half served – a complete cold buffet is set out – fruit, cereals, yogout, cheese, meats, rolls, croissants, pasties and juices for you to help yourself to. You  then get a choice of about 4 different types of cooked breakfast, which you may mix and match if  you want to. We all retired for a nap and about 1 p.m. I took a stroll to the bar area to get a cool drink and spent a very pleasant couple of hours chatting to our Canadian friends, Elaine and Cathy.We set off after tea for our game drive and took a very different direction, saw some beautiful zebras with their babies and lots of buck again, plus wildebeest. We then came to 2 fully grown Rhinos with a baby who was still suckling. How people can kill these magnificent animals is beyond me – they also seem pretty harmless. Close by were lots of giraffes, almost posing for pictures, as if to say – “Look at us, we are more beautiful than them”. We drove along the river banks and were told our Cheetah brothers were in the bushes trying to find a place to cross the river.

Shamwari has changed so much this year because of all the rain that the animals are a bit confused about where to cross and Cheetahs are just big cats, they don’t like getting wet. After some driving around we came back and again saw the two handsome guys walking along looking for a place to cross, which didn’t make much sense as we had seen so many buck on that side of the river.

We then went to the other side of the river and again came to a place where you used to be able to cross the river to see the two of them sitting looking at the river – as if to say – “What has happened here – don’t you know we want to go to the other side”. We stopped for sundowners and watched the sun going down – really magnificent setting as we were half way up a hill and the sun was sinking below the horizon. We then drove back to the plain where we had earlier seen all the buck with their babies and suddenly there were the Cheetah brothers looking for supper.   It is quite an amazing sight to see how these two worked together to capture a baby buck and the  saying “Fresh Meat” got a whole new meaning that night.

Dinner that night was served in the dining room – 3 courses each one superbly served and beautiful to eat. Our Canadian friends left on Sunday morning as they were flying to Nelspruit via Durban so we did the game drive by ourselves with Phillip. We went to another area of Shamwari where the Buffalo are kept and also quite a lot of the more exotic type of buck, plus some that are just extras. Unfortunately the buffalo did not feel like been looked at and we did not find them. We then went back into the main area and looked for hippos – this has become difficult because of all the water in the river so they can now move all over whereas before the rangers more or less knew where to find them. We did find a family – guess it was a family as there seemed to be two adults and some smaller hippos. We also met up with an old male giraffe who has taken it in his head to inspect game vehicles – he walked all around the vehicle and to see this guy so tall and beautiful so close you felt his head would come in any minute was a brilliant experience.

We drove back to Long Lee for breakfast feeling rather sad that this amazing weekend was drawing to a close.Shamwari definitely lived up to our expectations, or should I say exceeded them – it was an Unforgettable Experience.